Emergency Preparedness – Food
Welcome to our Emergency Preparedness Blog Series! After Hurricane Maria welcomed us to St. Croix in September, we feel like we have certainly learned about surviving a disaster. We wanted to share some of that knowledge with you! For the next several weeks we will be posting each week about different topics that we have learned about. We hope that they will help you assess your own preparation in light of an emergency. We will ask some questions that will get you thinking about what plans you have in place.
We also want to share with you some of the amazing things that helped us. If you choose to add any of these fine products to your own emergency preparedness arsenal, we will get a small portion of affiliate sales that will help us bring more stories to you from “America’s Paradise!” Thank you!
As with any preparedness plan, ours is going to start with the 3 main components – Food, Water, & Shelter.
Today we are going to explore food….yum….but maybe not….”disaster” food can get old pretty fast.
What is your plan for food?
Our plan was to eat as much as we could that was in our fridge. We knew that once we lost power, the food in our fridge would only last for maybe a day. I had filled several gallon sized bags with water and allowed them to freeze prior to the storm so our freezer was full of ice. I read about that somewhere online as I was prepping for the storm. Super smart! As they thawed out, we could also use them to have some cold drinking water (albeit it tasted a little funky like frozen water can sometimes – but it was cold!). We knew that we could keep some things for longer by moving them to the freezer as things started to thaw out.
We also decided that we didn’t want to play the “buy ice” game. That is, you have a cooler and you buy ice each day to keep the cooler cool. We didn’t want to have to keep going to the store – because after the storm they were crazy AND we didn’t want to spend our precious funds on ice. We decided we would be all right without freezer/fridge/cold food until we could get power back. As I am typing now, 76 days without power, that is getting REALLY old. I sometimes have to suppress my tears as I walk through the grocery store looking at frozen food and dairy. I also get emotional over cold drinks that we buy as a splurge item sometimes.
Our fridge now stands with the doors propped slightly open to hinder any mold growing. We hope it still works once power is restored.
This plan is not for everyone. For some, it would be a deal breaker to go so long without cold/frozen/fresh food. I understand that. However, you might be more resilient than you can imagine when faced with the alternative. We do occasionally stop at the store right before heading home to get some cheese for quesadillas, some frozen shrimp, or grapes. We don’t do left-overs. My children do eat an apple each day in their lunch – so we won’t get scurvy or anything….haha!
How will you cook your food?
Since we can’t cook our food with our stove or oven as they are electric, we got creative. Before we moved here, we had purchased the Chef Mate Camp Stove. This has been awesome! It is small enough that it just sits right on top of our normal stove. It is super lightweight. It does require butane. Prior to Hurricane Irma, Stewart went on a search for butane as I had been unsuccessful in my search at the local grocery stores. He found some at the Kmart! He bought all 14 canisters. It cost A TON! It has been worth it. You can get butane either online or most emergency preparedness stores carry the canisters. Stewart’s parents have been sending us canisters from the mainland that are less expensive but can only be shipped 4 at a time and must go by ground – which means they go by boat to get here. Depending on the meals being prepared, the butane canisters usually last about 8 meals.
Many here have used their barbeques to cook on. We do not have one so we just use our camp stove. Also many have gas ranges and can use them by lighting them manually but their gas ovens (which are lit by an internal lighting mechanism that is regulated by electricity) are useless without power. There are other cooking options that we have yet to explore like solar ovens, charcoal, or dutch ovens. They are all tried and true ways though…and if you’ve got those skills or resources– way to go!
What DO we eat?
Our typical meals are either pasta and Prego white sauce (from a jar) or some sort of flavored rice dish with an added can of chicken. We do pancakes for breakfast pretty often because it gives a little bit of variety from cereal. We got tired of regular maple syrup so I make some really great buttermilk/caramel syrup that most of us love – except for Gabe who prefers his regular maple.
Did you know that you have to refrigerate eggs in the United States? It is not that way elsewhere. The way the U.S. processes their eggs to try to prevent bacteria like salmonella from growing on the eggs requires them to be refrigerated. In Europe, they don’t process them the same way and sell the eggs on the shelves by the baking goods. This fascinated me and frustrated me. There were a few times when I thought “how sick could we actually get?” then realized that we didn’t really have good healthcare and I didn’t want to take a trip to the hospital for myself or my family. You can read more about egg safety here. On the flip side, farm fresh eggs do not need to be refrigerated and can sit on the counter for a few days. There is also a woman here who has some chickens and we sometimes get fresh eggs that don’t need to be refrigerated so we can have fried eggs or French toast. Stewart’s mom also sent us some powdered eggs that have also been interesting to try out – and have made scrambled eggs and French toast with them.
We also have come to LOVE what the boys call “Spacon!” It is Spam bacon. We slice it up really thin and fry it like bacon. It’s great! I have also been able to find some really great Hungry Jack hash browns that you just pour hot water in the carton and fry them up like normal to add something a little different to our meals.
Most of the above items only require water. We found that having to store regular things that would normally go into skillet meals like milk or eggs was just not practical. We are very conscious of labels and whether something requires more than just water. I’m focused on getting food on the table quickly as the rest of our energy may need to be used taking care of other things like laundry or homework.
We have a couple of coolers that we keep things that will either melt (chocolate) or spoil more quickly (bread) if kept out in our moisture-filled climate. They are merely used for a closed container though…we do not put ice in them.
Do you have food that your family will eat?
I have 2 children. That could be enough to say on the fact that I need to be pretty aware of whether or not they will eat the food we have. No one in our family, except me, likes tomatoes. If a soup or pasta sauce has chunks of tomatoes in it, it is a NO GO. I would be the only one who would eat it. Stewart does not like ground meat. That goes for hamburger, sausage, pork, or turkey. It’s a texture thing. If it has ground meat, I don’t cook it. I will eat it. As you can see, you have to know what your family will like and keep that kind of food on hand. Otherwise, you will have a full pantry of meaty-tomatoey-pasta sauce or meaty chili that no one will eat but you.
Other things we keep in our supply:
I have recently ordered a couple of things that I’m pretty excited about:
Strawberry jam packets – so we can make peanut butter and jam sandwiches
Barbeque sauce packets – to add to chicken to have BBQ Chicken sandwiches
Ketchup and Mustard Packets – to add to hot dogs
Mayonnaise Packets – to make other types of sandwiches
The packets are single use and do not need to be refrigerated – winning!
Some of you may be wondering about the nutritional value of the foods that we are consuming. No it is not our ideal diet. We would much rather have some salads thrown in occasionally. It is just not worth it to us to have to keep the power running with a generator or playing the ice game. It is not great but I have to remember that it is not forever.
I hope this has gotten you thinking about what types of ways you would cook your food, what you would eat, and how you would prepare your food.
What did you learn or what got you thinking the most from this post? Leave a comment below.
Up Next – Water!